My rating for the event: 6.5/10… from a non-trance fan. If I were a huge fan of trance, I suppose it would be 8/10. The organization was great, but I felt like it lacked the umph factor of a “Festival” and I wasn’t in love with the crowd.
A State of Trance – ASOT – is well-known to be the most important event in Trance, a subgenre of Dance Music. ASOT is hosted by Armin van Buuren, one of the most important DJs (7 times voted #1 DJ in the world by DJ Mag) in the industry, and the fearless leader of the Trance genre, spreading peace, love, unity, and respect wherever he goes. Every year Armin hosts ASOT events around the world that coincide with every 50 episodes of his radio show. This year celebrates the 700th episode of the show with ASOT Festival (14 years, wow). Utrecht, Netherlands, is his hometown and he always does an annual ASOT show here, so for trance fans it’s an important destination to go to. I used to like trance a lot, but not I’m not a big fan anymore. Still, to me it is the most important event in Trance, so it was worth a visit combining it with a tour of Amsterdam over a weekend.
Utrecht is a 30 minute train ride away from Amsterdam. You can get there on the train from Amsterdam Central or Amsterdam Amstel station. The train ticket costs about 8 euros one-way, and runs about once every half hour. Not bad! Totally doable. The entrance of the event space, which is a large conference venue, was about 10 minutes walking from the train station. Even though the train runs with low frequency at night, the party ends at 7am anyway, perfect to catch the first train back into Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam with a classmate of mine Carlos, and we arrived at Utrecht at around 10pm.
A word of warning on pregaming – bring your own alcohol/poison of choice from Amsterdam as you won’t find anything around the train station in Utrecht. The stores in the station only sell wine and beer, and there’s nothing around the station. Your other option is to buy expensive alcohol at the event… (about 8 euros for a drink)… avoid that!!!
No line at our time of arrival, around 10:30pm. They had many rows of staff that checked tickets – great because it seems like lines entering into the event was not a problem. They say that the capacity is about 40,000 people, impressive logistics! After scanning your ticket, you enter a locker area. You pay 7 euros with a 5 euro deposit to get a locker where you can put your coat – you get a key so you can go back as many times as you want. I really liked that! If you bring your own alcohol you can always stash them there and come back to drink because they don’t body search you at this point.
Next you enter the venue going through the “body search” process. My search process was one of the laxest security experiences I ever had … The guy just looked into my bag, and asked me what my portable mobile charger is. They didn’t even get a girl to pat me down. I guess it’s the Netherlands, they don’t really care if I have any illegal substances on me… Maybe they are targeting other dangerous items, like the possibility of my portable phone charger being a bomb?
Music and Stages
Finally, we get to enjoy what we are here for!!!
As I mentioned before, unfortunately I’m not a big trance fan… Trance makes me sleepy! My favorite was the “Who’s Afraid of 138?!” Stage, which was dedicated to the “harder styles of trance music” at 138bpm. I was awoken with Coming Soon!!! on stage. Now that’s what I call fun music!!! I knew their “Become One” track, but it was my first time seeing the duo perform live. I loved the energy, their distinctive bouncy sounds, and rapid beats.
I also saw Armin, Gareth Emery, Arty, Audien, Cosmic Gate, Andrew Bayer, Aly and Fila, and Liquid Soul. Unfortunately I felt that many of the sets that the artists played were very similar and repetitive, with the typical trance sounds, and there isn’t much innovation in the style. For someone that likes trance, though, I imagine that he or she would really enjoy it.
The show did not lack LED panels and laser beams – the lasers were beautiful and impressive. However, I felt that as a “Festival”, the stages could use a bit more creativity. It would be really nice to have artistic installations, dancers, and creative rest areas. It was nice that they put bleachers in the back of each stage, so that you can sit and rest while taking in the whole scene, the lasers, and the music.
The crowd was meh. I definitely didn’t get the PLUR (peace, love, unity, and respect) vibe of ravers that I am used to especially at trance events. I think that because this party is so famous, it attracts people who are not necessarily lovers of the music. There were a couple friendly people, and folks giving out high fives, but all in all there was not too much interaction with fellow ASOT-goers and I’ve been to events with wayy better crowds. Also, people in Europe definitely don’t wear kandi or dress up for the rave (just normal clothes and the girls don’t even wear skanky outfits). Dressing up and self expression is one of my favorite aspects of raving, so I was disappointed about that.
Logistics and Facilities
Great bathrooms! They had real bathroom facilities all around the venue. With toilet paper! There were also porta-potties everywhere. I never had to wait for the restroom.
Food and drink – you have to buy tokens from the vending machines to buy drinks. Even though there are credit card machines (PIN needed), it’s best to use cash. My complaint is that drinks are too expensive, for a red bull vodka it costs about 9 euros, and they give you very little alcohol. They’re not even supposed to serve straight up shots, I had to ask a couple different bartenders to find one willing to give me a vodka shot (for around 6 euros).
The flow of the event. Good – a lot of walking but that’s to be expected in a big festival. While Armin played at MainStage 1 they closed off the access for an hour or so, because it was at capacity.
The ASOT Festival is definitely not to be missed if you’re a trance lover. As a dance music fan, I would recommend going at least once if you have the chance to, as it is an important and historical event in dance music. It’s not an event that I’d go to again though, and in general I wouldn’t go out of my way to attend this event.